Former Mississippi State coach Babe McCarthy and player Jack Berkshire (AP)Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis is spearheading an effort to commemorate one of the landmark moments in the integration of college basketball.
In 1963, an all-white Mississippi State team defied its state's unwritten laws of segregation and sneaked out of Starkville to face predominantly black Loyola (Chicago) in the Mideast Regional semifinals in East Lansing. Hollis told MLive.com Tuesday that he's trying to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that game by setting up a commemorative matchup for next season at Michigan State's old Jenison Field House.
"The historical significance of that game needs to be recognized," Hollis said. "I don't think a lot of people in Michigan are aware that game was played there and we want to make sure that story is told.
"This is the 50th anniversary as you know and Mississippi State and Loyola are looking at some possibilities, as well as we are. I want to do something that commemorates that facility, so that's what we're working toward. And we're looking at a bunch of different options that make sense."
The ideal option would be a double header at Jenison Field House with Mississippi State and Loyola playing the opener and Michigan State facing another opponent in the second game. Hollis has yet to secure commitments from either the Bulldogs or Ramblers, but don't count it out given his track record.
Hollis hatched the idea for a basketball game on an aircraft carrier last year, spearheaded the plan to hold a Michigan-Michigan State hockey match at Spartan Stadium in 2001 and set up a basketball game at cavernous Ford Field two years later. He has even broached the idea of a basketball game between Michigan State and USC at Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, Greece, site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
This is a bit less daunting of a goal but possibly more significant. Even if Hollis can't get Loyola and Mississippi State on board and Michigan State just plays a game in the old field house, it's still a significant step toward raising awareness for one of college basketball's contributions to the Civil Rights era.